By Yudhistir Govinda Das
Mathematics is perhaps the purest form of logic we can relate to. You add two and two to get four. Simple. But does this logic work for more tricky or sensitive issues? Who gets to decide who is right?
The idea of disagreeing on issues of governance, philosophy, or life itself is not something new. History books and scriptures are full of stories of individuals or societies going against the prescribed authority of the time. For the sake of brevity, let’s for the time being skip the merits of those disagreements.
But, what seems to be new is the word ‘dissent’ popping up on our mobile and computer screens when we surf the internet for news, and even more if that space happens to be social media.
Dissent, which the Cambridge dictionary defines as ‘to disagree with other people about something’, has become a buzzword of sorts and it would not surprise us if it indeed ends up becoming the word of the year!
One group dissenting with the decision of the other, the left-wing dissenting with the ideas of right-wing, all this makes one ponder, who decides who is correct?
As an individual Atman, spirit soul, we observe the phenomenal world around us, gather information through various senses, and finally try to make sense of this information using the mind and intelligence which in turn relies on logic and past experience.
From the sound of it, this system of knowledge gathering seems pretty much satisfactory where an individual is in control of what he wishes to know, how he authenticates the information, and what he does with it. Except for one small glitch – we have not factored in the ability or rather the inability of our senses to acquire factual information.
The Vedic scriptures talk extensively about this problem and go on to broadly classify four defects with our senses: Bhram, to be deluded; Pramad, committing mistakes; Vipralipsa, tendency to cheat; Karanapatava, imperfection of the senses.
Sitting through an hour-long lecture and not remembering anything; seeing a mirage of water on the highway; mistaking a rope for a snake; and not being able to see objects too far or too near, all of these are manifestations to varying degrees of these sensory defects.
The logical thing to do, at this point, would be to ask where should I look for knowledge that is free from these defects? The answer lies in the word ‘Aparusheya’, a Sanskrit word that translates as ‘not of human origin’. Anything with a defect cannot produce a perfect object. A wrong start to a mathematical problem cannot produce the correct solution.
It is for this simple reason that sages of antiquity and realised souls have advised us to look towards the sacred scriptures for guidance. Scriptures are referred to as being a lighthouse to guide us on the path of righteousness.
After all, it is not so important as to who is right as compared to what is right.
The writer is with Iskcon
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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